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Solstice Canyon Hike

Solstice Canyon Hike

In This Guide
  • Solstice Canyon Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions
  • Where to Park for the Solstice Canyon Hike
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations
Total Distance (?)3.2 miles (5.2 km)
Hike Time2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)700 feet (213m)
Highest Elevation770 feet (235m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Park Phone805 370-2301
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.
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The Solstice Canyon hike in Malibu is one of the most beautiful (and popular) hikes you can find. Within the short distance of 3 miles, you get a bit of everything, ocean views from coastal hillsides, a shaded canyon along only one of two perennial water sources in the Santa Monica Mountains, a waterfall, and a solid dose of architecture and local history. In this guide, I’ll take you on the popular loop hike to enjoy all the sights along Solstice Canyon.

Where is Solstice Canyon?

The Solstice Canyon trailhead is in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a few minutes inland from the ocean in Malibu. Use this trailhead address:
Solstice Canyon Road, Malibu, CA, 90265

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When you first pull into the park, go past the sign and the first parking area by the entrance. Keep driving a short distance down the paved road.

Fun fact: Solstice Canyon Park opened on summer solstice, 1988.

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Eventually you’ll come to the end of the road and the main trailhead parking.
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On the left is the education area that offers some good interpretive displays.
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The toilets are two minutes up the trail, and are not visible from the parking area.

Gear For the Hike

I’d recommend fitness clothing or light hiking gear for this hike. Bring at least 1L of water and some sun protection.

Griptightone Gpod Tree

Joby GripTight Smartphone Flexible Tripod
Take your selfie stick game to the next level. Part of the fun of a hike is taking pictures, and a flexible JOBY smartphone tripod takes it to the next level. You can use it as a selfie stick, as a regular tripod, but more importantly, as a flexible tripod that can attach to tree branches and other objects. It’s not expensive, and it’s something you can use when not hiking too.

Latest Price – Amazon

Astro Headlamp

Black Diamond Cosmo 300 Headlamp
If something goes wrong and you get lost, sprain your ankle, or get delayed, you might be caught out after dark. And one of the top items that search and rescue departments recommend you carry is a light. Smartphones can work as flashlights, but that drains the battery quickly. It’s better to invest in a reasonably priced and high-quality headlamp like this Black Diamond. It takes AAA batteries, can last 200 hours, and has an emergency strobe. Carry it with you off the trail to use in emergencies as well.

Latest Price – REI | Amazon

Rei Member Card 2

REI Membership Saves You Money Forever
Have you shopped at REI before? They have all kinds of active clothes and gear, from fitness, to hiking, to snow sports, to casual wear. It’s an overall great place to shop (here’s why) and they offer a $30 membership that gets you 10% back on everything for life, along with frequent coupons, free shipping, discounts, and member-only sales. It’s a no-brainer.

REI Membership – REI

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.

My May 2022 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Solstice Canyon Trail Maps

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Overall the trails are well-marked and easy to navigate.
Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Elevation Profile

Solstice Canyon Hike Elevation
We’ll get the climbing done in the beginning of the hike, and then enjoy a nice long downhill back to the start.

3D Map

Solstice Canyon Hike 3d Map
This loop hike goes counter-clockwise, climbing up the hill for the great views, and then descending back into Solstice Canyon and following it back to the start.

Solstice Canyon Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Solstice Canyon Hike Directions 1
Go through the gate at the end of the parking lot.
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And then immediately look for the trail to the left going uphill.
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Start climbing up the TRW Loop Trail.

TRW stands for Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge, the company that owned Space Technology laboratories, which rented 10 acres here in the 1960s. Solstice Canyon was one of only three places on earth chosen to test equipment used for the Pioneer planet exploration satellites. TRW selected the area because it was free of human-created or natural electromagnetic disturbances.

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And after climbing a bit you’ll see the old TRW space lab, also known as “the Darth Vadar building.” Today it is the headquarters of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
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Look back as you climb for views of the Pacific Ocean.
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Keep climbing up the hillside.
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When you get to the paved road, cross over and continue hiking.
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At the t-junction, make the right toward the Rising Sun Trail.

The Rising Sun Trail is named after one of the earliest vineyards in Southern California, the Rising Sun Vineyard, started by early settler Matthew Keller. We’ll visit his house later in the hike.

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Here’s the sign at that junction.
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When you get to the (closed to cars) parking area, make the left.
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And look for the trail to continue from the parking lot.
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Here’s the sign from the parking lot trailhead. We’ll be on the Rising Sun Trail for the next 1.5 miles, until we reach the Tropical Terrace ruins.
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You’ll have a bit more climbing to do.
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And now you’ll be able to see the Pacific to the north, over the hills.
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Keep hiking straight when a trail joins in from the right.
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And now you enjoy some incredible views of the upper sections of Solstice Canyon.
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There’s some great eroded rock formations along this section.
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And at about 1.3 miles in you’ll start to descend into the lower part of the canyon.
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When you see the lush palm and (non-native) agave and bamboo, you’re almost at the bottom.
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Cross the creek, which is usually an easy rock hop.

The creek is one of only two that flow year-round in the Santa Monica Mountains. It used to be stocked with trout, and at one point Steelhead would migrate up the creek from the ocean.

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Now you are at the Tropical Terrace Ruins. Make a quick right to hike up to Solstice waterfall.
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The path follows a fence.
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And then ends at a viewing area for the cute waterfall.
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Head back and explore the Tropical Terrace Ruins.
Tropical Terrace Arch Digest
Here’s what the house used to look like. Photo Architectural Digest 1953

Tropical Terrace, also known as the Roberts House, was a bit of an architectural landmark. It was built by Paul Revere Williams, a famous African-American architect who also built homes for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. The water features of the house served as a fire-prevention system. After the house sat unused and unmaintained for a while, it finally succumbed to the 1982 Dayton Canyon Fire.

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When you’re done exploring the ruins, hike down the paved road.
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Go straight past the Sostomo Trail junction.
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If you look up to your left, you’ll see the rock formations that we passed earlier from above.
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At the split, keep right. you can also go left along the creek, but there can be some poison oak and ticks down there, so heads up.

You might hear loud parakeets as you hike down the trail. There’s an active community of black-hooded parakeets in the canyon. The species is from South America, and these are ones were released (or escaped from) by pet owners. Today they thrive in the wild here.

Solstice Canyon Hike Directions 36
When you get to the bridge, cross over to visit the Keller ruins. After we’re done, we’ll continue back down this road.
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Here’s the Keller ruins, thought to be the oldest stone building in Malibu, destroyed by fire in 2007.

The Kellers were Irish immigrants and sheep farmers who moved here in 1857 after buying the land for $0.10 cents an acre.

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After continuing on the road, look for the charred remains of the Keller Oak, a massive oak tree planted by the Kellers.
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When the trail splits, go left over the bridge.
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Stay on the main trail, avoiding the lower TRW Loop turnoff to the right.
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And soon you’ll see the restrooms.
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And then the gate at the start. That’s the hike!

This guide last updated on March 11, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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